Public health authorities have not recorded significant adverse reactions to any of the COVID-19 vaccines being offered in Barbados.
This was revealed by Senior Medical Officer (NCDs) in the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Dr. Arthur Phillips, during his presentation at the second town hall meeting on vaccination and testing for the viral illness, held at the Princess Margaret Secondary School, Six Cross Roads, St. Philip, last evening.
He said continuous monitoring was being done by the Adverse Events Surveillance Committee, which meets weekly to discuss the reports received through various channels, namely the Barbados Drug Service reporting mechanism, and public and private health care providers.
“That committee reviews that information…. We are satisfied that out of over 180,000 doses administered in Barbados today, we have only had 442 adverse reports, and of these, three were seen as being moderate to severe and potentially being connected to the vaccine. And this is similar to the sort of picture that is seen around the world,” Dr. Phillips said.
Meanwhile Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Kenneth George, sought to allay fears that persons may have about suffering major reactions to the COVID-19 vaccines. Noting that he was a member of the Adverse Events Surveillance Committee, Dr. George indicated that most of the reports received, so far, are from persons who experienced relatively mild side effects. He also encouraged those who have received the vaccine to report any symptoms to public health authorities via the website of the Barbados Drug Service.
“Persons can go to that website and document any reaction. We want the public to not only come for what they describe as major disease. If you want to report that you had swelling in your arm, we take that seriously. If you want to report that you had a fever, nausea or feeling unwell after the vaccine….
“What I will tell you is, many of the minor symptoms that occur with respect to vaccinations are occurring because your immune system is being primed, so that you reach a state where you feel unwell for a day or two, because what is happening is that your immune system is filling out what we call antibodies,” the Chief Medical Officer explained.
Dr. George also responded to a question from a member of the audience about whether there were any deaths as a result of a severe reaction to the vaccine. He stated: “What I will tell you, we’re investigating one or two deaths. It is a process that is going on; we have to gather the evidence…. There is a process that we have to follow. It involves multiple steps. And only after we go through that rigorous process, can we make the link. It’s about adding extra points, as to say, towards making what is called an association.”
Another panellist, President of the Barbados Association of Medical Practitioners, Dr. Linda Williams, sought to demystify the composition and purpose of the COVID-19 vaccines.
“So, for respiratory viruses, such as flu viruses, such as SARS viruses, those viruses tend to not be as stable, and their rate of reproduction and mutation is much faster than other diseases. So, you have to keep adapting and adjusting the vaccine. Now, these non-sterilising vaccines do not prevent you necessarily from getting infected. But it prevents you from having the negative outcomes, the pneumonia, and the hospitalisation and even death. So, the purpose of these vaccines is different from the purpose of say, a smallpox vaccine or a measles vaccine, etc. but both are vaccines, they just have a different purpose….
“So, the SARS-CoV-2 vaccines are respiratory vaccines that the rate of change of the virus is so quick that you have to develop a vaccine that then you can modify and give booster doses for, as time changes,” she explained.
Dr. Williams also encouraged Barbadians to take the necessary steps, including following public health protocols, to protect themselves from the virus.